Wednesday November 23, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The Province is taking action to deliver stronger public safety services to protect people in urban, rural, and remote communities across B.C. through new funding that will help specialized units and rural police forces staff up and help keep streets safer for everyone.
Premier David Eby made the announcement today at 4 pm outside the legislature in Victoria, including an investment of $230 million over three years.
BC is working with Public Safety Canada with a three-year plan. As many as 277 blocked vacancies “will now be filled”, said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth today. As many as 40 officers can be put through as a trained troupe each year, explained Farnworth.
“This is a commitment from the province to fund those positions,” Farnworth told media.
Specifically around the issues in the Vancouver downtown East Side, Eby said the issues there are “complex and longstanding”, and that things “have not been in worse shape than they are now”. The issues are as much medical, social and poverty-related as they are crime and safety related, said Eby today.
More police throughout BC:
As part of the Safer Communities Action Plan, the Province is enhancing investments in core police funding that will sustain and strengthen enforcement and crime prevention capacity throughout British Columbia.
“The funding will ensure adequate and effective levels of policing and law enforcement, particularly in rural, remote and Indigenous communities, and in a wide variety of specialized teams that investigate and prevent complex, violent and organized crimes. The funding will also provide support to prosecutors and probation officers with respect to violent, high-risk offenders,” it was stated in a news release.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe, and my government is working on every front to protect our communities and make them stronger,” said Premier David Eby. “As part of our Safer Communities Action Plan, we will help ensure that the RCMP can operate to its full capability to keep people safe. The actions today will help stabilize policing and provide our provincial police force with the staff resources they need to address public safety concerns head on.”
It will take “many many Parliaments” to achieve any transition in BC from reliance on RCMP as the policing resource for smaller communities throughout BC, said Farnworth. The funding and policing strategy is for urban communities, rural and specialized teams.
Key public safety issues:
A growing population in the province also necessitates additional funding for policing, Eby noted. He said BC can’t “arrest its way out of a problem”, reminding media that “a billion dollars” has been invested in solving the housing problem, including supports and coordination with mental health and addiction.
The investment of $230 million over three years will allow the Province to tackle key public safety issues, including:
- filling long-standing vacancies in rural police detachments in communities of less than 5,000 people;
- allowing provincially funded regional RCMP units to reach their fully authorized staffing levels of 2,602 officers; hiring additional officers in specialized units, such as the major crimes section, the sexual exploitation of children unit, and the BC Highway Patrol. These units serve rural and urban communities throughout the province and can help alleviate some work of municipal police forces, freeing them up to focus on other crime; and
- creating a strong foundation to address anti-money-laundering recommendations from the Cullen Commission.
Today Farnworth sounded particularly excited about bolstering specialized policing units. The new funding will allow BC to “fill those teams and create new teams”. Such as for dealing with organized crime, it was noted.
Staffing up these units will improve public safety by increasing the overall capacity of homicide and missing persons investigations where foul play is suspected, and deterring the causes of motor vehicle fatalities, such as speeding, distracted driving and impairment.
“This historic commitment to invest in core RCMP police funding is a massive undertaking that took two years to achieve,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Sustained core funding will provide a strong foundation for police resources, enabling the police to focus on violent crimes and other pressing public safety issues, while also actioning the implementation of the Safer Communities Action Plan and other public safety initiatives.”
Since 2017, government has taken steps to prevent money laundering and organized crime that fuels the toxic drug crisis by providing resources to police, reversing cuts to sexual assault centres, increasing crime prevention and victim support services funding, and making record investments in housing, mental health and poverty reduction.
- The Safer Communities Action Plan lays out concrete steps at the provincial level to make communities safer under two tracks: enforcement and intervention services.
- The plan improves co-ordination between law enforcement, community service organizations, justice system actors, health providers and people who are recovering from addiction and mental-health challenges in a collaborative, coordinated approach to address the issues people are seeing in their communities.
- The Safer Communities Action Plan also includes:
* launching new repeat violent offender coordinated response teams, made up of police, dedicated prosecutors and probation officers; expanding mental-health crisis response teams into more communities, so police can focus on crime and people in crisis are met early by health-care workers and community members; and building public confidence in the prosecution system with new direction from the attorney general to prosecutors to implement a clear and understandable approach to bail for repeat violent offenders within the existing federal law.
To read more about the Safer Communities Action Plan